Top 10 Vampires From Books, Film and TV

by Scarlett Evans 

Let’s face it, despite the flack some depictions of vampires have gotten over recent years (looking at you, sparkling-in-the-sun vamps); they are still one of the coolest, most mysterious and best supernatural creatures we love to read about and watch.

So today, for your consideration, here’s a spooky, sexy, top 10 list of the best vampires from books, film and TV.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

A brightly colored photo of Dracula, with red eyes, red lips and a red backdrop.

We couldn’t kick off this list without mentioning the OG and, inarguably, the most famous vampire of all — Dracula. Bram Stoker‘s original book has spawned a ton of film and TV adaptations since it was first released in 1897. Even if the diary/letter writing style and sometimes extremely old-fashioned way of writing isn’t your thing, we have to give kudos to a figure who has inspired so many fantastic variations and different takes on this classic creature which seems to transcend across a whole host of cultures and countries.

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Blade, Blade

Wesley Snipes as Blade, wearing black sunglasses, a black trench coat, and wielding a sword on a dark gray background.

Technically, Blade is a half-vampire, but he wins a spot on this list by being a total badass. Additionally, it gives us the opportunity to explore the fun twist of supporting a quasi-vampire as our leading character whilst still kicking butt and taking down the bad guys (in sometimes creative ways). Plus, bonus points for extreme amounts of blood. Seriously. 

Akasha, The Queen of the Damned

Aaliyah as Akasha in Queen of the Damned, posing provocatively while two vampires watch in the background.

It seems there are way more well-known males than females when it comes to infamous vampires we love to hate (or love). Akasha breaks this trend, with the stunning Aaliyah’s portrayal on the silver screen standing out as one of the sexiest, sultriest of a fanged queen of the damned ever (and considering we’re talking vampires here, that really is quite an achievement). Is The Queen of the Damned a great movie? Um, not really.

However, in terms of looks, Akasha nails the gorgeously sensual and seductive spirit of the vampire that draws us magnetically back to their stories again and again.

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Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Spike staring straight ahead lustily, a promo photo from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Some personal biases may be showing through with this pick. Surely, Angel, Buffy’s on-again-off-again love interest is the better-known vampire of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Maybe.

Where Angel is a “vampire with a soul” because of an ancient curse and follows a pretty standard story beat of falling in love with a 16-year-old, an argument can be made that Spike’s character arc is more exciting and compelling.

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He starts as a Big Bad, gets his fangs clipped by the Initiative and goes through a pretty pathetic phase at some points. However, he comes back fighting, gaining his soul back (no shortcut gypsy curses for William the Bloody) and finally earning his redemption by sacrificing himself to close the Hellmouth and save the world. I mean … way more compelling. Fight me.

John Mitchell, Being Human (UK version)

Aidan Turner as John Mitchell, brooding while wearing all black in a dark London alley.

Again, being based in the UK, you might argue this pick is more than a little biased. But Aidan Turner‘s performance as Mitchell in the horror-comedy Being Human is an excellent example of the fantastic variety that can be explored through the lens of vampire stories. He’s one of the most sympathetic portrayals of a vampire, demonstrating the struggle between his nature as a vampire and the remaining strands of his humanity.

Often, we feel like he doesn’t want to kill; he doesn’t want to feed. The bloodlust he experiences can easily be compared with the desperate struggle that any addiction can inspire — something which is all too easy to relate to as a flawed human. It’s enjoyable to find a slightly rarer instance of a vampire in a comedic story. Being Human mixes horror and humour very well and feels true to life because of it.

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Bill Compton, True Blood (based on the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris)

Still of Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer in HBO's True Blood.

Another hotly contested duel between two leading vamps of True Blood: Bill Compton versus the Viking vamp Eric Northman. For me, Bill is the more interesting character. Yes, like most newly-turned vamps, he takes part in many a blood-fueled orgy and revels in the gore and bloodlust.

Eventually, he resents this side of himself, his humanity manifesting in a desire to be more compassionate. He feeds on humans to live, not kill them, using a glamour, so they don’t have to remember the experience.

He also falls for our leading lady, southern belle Sookie. He goes through a bit of a transformation after drinking Lilith’s blood and becomes “Billith” (in the TV show, at least). However, this did allow for exciting new powers outside the range of your run-of-the-mill vampire. One of the things which makes Bill’s character so interesting is his depth — sometimes he’s sympathetic, other times cold, or even downright cruel. 

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Selene, Underworld

Selene standing on the top of a building with a full moon backdrop while holding a gun.

Selene, like most vampires, has a tragic backstory that involves the deaths of her entire family by the vampire who was to turn her (unbeknown to her, of course). Underworld‘s Selene is quite different from our previous lady-vamp, Akasha — not that she isn’t just as gorgeous, of course.

Where The Queen of the Damned could be considered more style than substance, Selene is fun to watch because she isn’t afraid to kick ass and take names. She’s a Lycan hunter, an elite vampire assassin who falls for a human (who turns out to be a Lycan, and she bites to create a hybrid) which has dark and creepy echoes of a classic star–crossed-lovers tale. Plus, she looks great in leather.

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Lestat De Lioncourt, The Vampire Chronicles / The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice

Lestat and The Vampire Chronicles lands at AMC

We couldn’t not include Lestat somewhere in this list – bringing together many of the tropes we think of when it comes to our favourite supernatural creatures. He’s bold, arrogant, charming and more than a little self-obsessed. Even as a human actor, Lestat is adored by humans and revels in the attention and adoration.

Underneath it all, he’s a tortured creature, capable of love, loneliness and wavering between trying to live to some kind of morality (hunting down evil-doers to feed on) to feeding on innocent victims like the darkest of vampire-kind. Lestat is interesting because, like us, he’s flawed and full of potential good. Sometimes, he does good deeds; at other times, terrible ones.

He struggles with loneliness and finding his place, questioning whether his actions are good or evil, whether God is real, and, if so, where does Lestat fit into God’s plans? These are the kinds of questions vampire stories were made for.

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Vlad Tepes (aka Vlad the Impaler), The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

A painting of Vlad Tepes, wearing a red headpiece and sporting a mustache.

Technically, this one’s a bit of a cheat. Vlad the Impaler and Dracula are considered by many to be the same, or Vlad is often thought to be the inspiration behind the legend of Dracula, at least. However, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova is such a fantastic book that it had to be included on this list.

Late one night, a young woman discovers an ancient book and stash of letters which lead her on a quest through history across Europe to discover the truth of Dracula’s identity.

If blood and gore are what you love most about vampire horror stories, then this one might not satisfy you. But if you adore history, legend, and lore and exploring how the stories we tell one another build the myths of tomorrow, this incarnation of Dracula is one you absolutely cannot miss. It brings the infamous vampire to life in a truly unique way.

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Matthew Clairmont, A Discovery of Witches – All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Still of Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer in Season One of A Discovery of Witches.

Matthew Goode as Matthew Clairmont and Teresa Palmer as Diana Bishop – A Discovery of Witches _ Season 1 – Photo Credit: Robert Viglasky/SKY Productions/Sundance Now

Ramping up the charm and sex appeal, Matthew Clairmont of A Discovery of Witches might be considered one of the more “modern” vampires on our list. He finds a way to blend seamlessly into modern America (the vast sums of money at his disposal probably don’t hurt). As with many vampires, he’s a mass of walking contradictions. He’s been a scientist, a scholar, a poet and a warrior (a seemingly unavoidable side effect of living for so many years).

Matthew allows us to explore what it might be like to enjoy a romantic relationship with one of these immortal creatures. A vital feature of the All Souls Trilogy is the love story between him and the trilogy’s protagonist, human and witch Diana Bishop. Matthew is far from perfect. However, with his intellect, passion and strength, he and Diane make for a serious power couple. If vampire romance is your thing, you should check this one out.

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We could add many more examples of unique, thrilling, dark and terrible vampires. Who are your all-time faves?

Scarlett Evans is an author based in York, England.